“Up Here” is a musical love story that’s based on a similar premise to “Inside Out” but makes it for adults. What that means is that instead of understanding the insides of a child through her emotions, we understand why these two adults misunderstand each other because of their past trauma and the voices of their parents, sprinkling a little bit of cheesy romance over the top. Yes, we all have those inner nagging moments, but do they sing to us when we’re in trouble? Probably not.
Lindsay is an aspiring writer who has just left her perfect life for something wild and free. It’s the turn of the millennium, and sometimes we all want a change, but to leave your fiancé six days before your wedding has got to cause some baggage. Mae Whitman is incredibly earnest as Lindsay, giving a very believable performance for someone who is on the path of self-discovery while simultaneously falling in love. Lindsay is haunted by her parents and a middle school friend who exposed a secret about Lindsay to the whole town. For Lindsay, who is from a small town, this was massively impactful in her formative years. She can’t even tell her friends her innermost thoughts because everybody would know about them. Betrayal and the need to be a ‘perfect’ person are always on her mind. So, when she moves to a big city like New York, that first step itself is highly liberating. She can be herself without the fear of everyone judging her. She puts on her unique red plastic pants and steps into a whole new world (did we hit the right note there?).
Lindsay and Miguel are off-key because they don’t want to open up and be vulnerable with each other. This is the big reason they have misunderstandings, possibly just like most couples in the real world. Her need to be a likeable person is never lost on her, even when she’s with a man who likes her for who she is rather than who she aspires to be. Her father is her voice of reason, and her mother is the one who pushes her to be ‘likable.’ It’s when she sings about being likable while desperately clinging on to a piano for dear life—in this case, the piano being everybody’s expectations that we completely feel for her. It’s Lindsay who has to overcome her own fears to be the self she looks forward to being because the voices will never stop.
Miguel is a man who works hard in the Big Apple to be respectable and independent. A boy who was once vulnerable and kind is now a ‘tiger shark’ because he has had his heart broken too many times. Carlos Valdes is a brilliant performer and radiates every time he puts on his musical hat, and the two leads share sizzling chemistry that is lost in the story of misunderstandings. Miguel’s voices include those of his overbearing mother, whom he lost as a child, the man his girlfriend cheated on him with, and a first love who left him in shambles. So, of course, he is afraid of falling too hard. When Miguel and Lindsay get intimate for the first time, he cries. That’s how terribly hurt he has been all this time. In many ways, this is his liberation.
Miguel’s macho voice—the man who ruined his life essentially by having sex with his girlfriend—compels him to be mean, ruthless, and, well, kind of boring. But Miguel is actually a geek who is creative and loves life without inhibitions. Astonishingly, even after Miguel is able to achieve everything he wanted in his investment banking job, he is unhappy because he doesn’t have Lindsay to share the joy with. Miguel is sentimental, and all the cards he’s been dealt have taught him to be otherwise. While Miguel begins to fall in love with Lindsay, instead of speaking to her about his feelings, he quickly hides behind the idea of a heart of stone. When he takes drugs, rather than feeling everything, he feels numb. All the opinions and ideas that hurt him previously are now just obstacles he can overcome with the words “I don’t feel anything’. But when he isn’t high anymore, he realizes that he isn’t himself anymore and reaches for Lindsay in the end.
Finally, the voices in their heads don’t dull down, but even when they’re amplified, Lindsay and Miguel can tune them down and speak to each other. They chose themselves over the nagging of their innermost demons (if we could call them that). To truly know someone is rather improbable, according to “Up Here,” because, at the end of the day, you have conflicting inner voices that only you can truly understand. A smothering mother, an egotistical friend, or an opinionated father are all wonderful examples of a person’s deep anxieties, making them interesting voices in Miguel and Lindsay’s heads. Overall, though, “Up Here” falls short in hitting hard even with such a relatable premise, it simply loses itself in a rollercoaster of episodes that keep pushing Lindsay and Miguel towards and then away from each other.